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Autism and Related Pervasive Developmental Disorders

A Neurological Illness Characterized by Social, Communication and Behavioral Deficits

Autism is a neurological disorder (a "brain" disease) characterized by the presence of severe communication, language and social deficits in affected persons. It is the most well known of several pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) diagnoses which begin in early childhood and continue throughout life, affecting most every aspect of life along the way. While autistic peoples' cognitive (thinking and language) and social skills are typically developmentally delayed compared to their normal peers, their motor (movement) skills develop in a more normal fashion.

Specific social interaction, communication and behavioral deficits must be present before the diagnosis of autism is appropriate. Though all autistic people show the same specific pattern of impairments, the severity of these impairments vary from case to case, with some people demonstrating relatively mild impairments and others demonstrating severe impairments.

From a very early age, autistic children demonstrate a fundamental difficulty in properly orienting towards other people and in processing social and non-verbal forms of communication, such as eye contact and facial expression. For instance, a normal infant is generally responsive to adult caregiver facial expressions and wi...

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